sexta-feira, 9 de junho de 2017

Jeremy Corbyn calls for May to resign after hung parliament confirmed / Theresa May's leadership in the balance amid Tory election fury

Jeremy Corbyn calls for May to resign after hung parliament confirmed

Buoyant Labour leader says people ‘have had enough of austerity politics’ as pressure mounts on prime minister

Anushka Asthana Political editor
Friday 9 June 2017 05.58 BST First published on Thursday 8 June 2017 22.13 BST

Jeremy Corbyn said the face of British politics has changed and called on Theresa May to resign after her snap general election left Britain with a hung parliament 11 days before Brexit talks begin.

Speaking as he was returned as MP for Islington North, the Labour leader declared: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”

Corbyn said May had called the election to assert her authority. “She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”

The Conservative leader appeared crushed as she accepted her victory in the constituency of Maidenhead with a shaky speech in which she repeated her resolve to provide the stability the country needed before Brexit talks.

“If the Conservative party has won the most seats and most votes then it will be incumbent that we will have that period of stability and that is what we will do,” she said, but her long-term future remained uncertain.

By the early hours of Friday morning, pressure was mounting on the prime minister as Tory MP Anna Soubry broke ranks to say May should “consider her position”.

“It is bad. She is in a very difficult place … It was a dreadful night. I’ve lost some excellent and remarkable friends,” she said. “This is a very bad moment for the Conservative party and we need to take stock and our leader needs to take stock.”

The former chancellor George Osborne described it as a “catastrophic” result while another Conservative MP said: “She needs to go.”

A minister admitted there would be “fury” within the party among those who did not believe an election was necessary.

The tight result, first indicated in a shock exit poll on Thursday night that showed the Conservatives likely to be the largest party in a hung parliament, represented a disastrous night for May.

Shortly before 6am on Friday, Labour held two key seats in Southampton to bring its total to 258 so far and deny the Conservatives the possibility of securing a majority. It was projected the Tories would end up with fewer than 320 seats.

The failure of the prime minister’s election gamble, taken when the party was more than 20 points ahead in the polls, triggered uncertainty on the eve of Brexit talks, causing a drop in the value of sterling.

Speaking from his home in Islington, north London, shortly after midnight, the Labour leader said: “Whatever the final result, we have already changed the face of British politics.”

Labour secured a first ever win in the previously safe Conservative seat of Canterbury, and also took control of Peterborough, which was one of the Brexit capitals of the country. There were also gains for Corbyn’s party in Battersea, Stockton South, Bury North and Vale of Clwyd.

A difficult night for the SNP delivered one of the biggest scalps, with the party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, losing his seat in Moray.

The former Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, spoke out about the need for the government to be sensitive about huge societal divisions as he was defeated by Labour in Sheffield Hallam.

The party’s leader, Tim Farron, hung on to his seat in Cumbria, while Vince Cable regained the Twickenham seat he lost in 2015.

The Conservative minister, Ben Gummer, a close ally of the prime minister and a key author of the party’s manifesto, lost in Ipswich while the financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, was defeated in Battersea, south-west London.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, faced a recount in a tight race in Hastings but just held on.

It was a bad night for Ukip, in which the party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, came third in Boston and Skegness, and it was crushed in its former seat of Clacton.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said the Conservatives had to listen to constituents as his own majority fell – but bookies also slashed the odds of him becoming the next Tory leader.

The shock result came after a gruelling seven-week battle in which supporters of Corbyn flocked to almost 100 rallies across the country in a vibrant and energetic campaign.

The Labour leader ended a tour of several seats starting in Glasgow on the final day of campaigning with a speech on the edge of his constituency in Islington, where he said that Labour’s anti-austerity message represented the “new centre ground” of British politics.

Corbyn sustained a string of attacks from Conservatives and also parts of the media, with a number of newspapers calling on their readers to reject him in Thursday’s poll.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, hit out at the negative and “nasty” tactics of his opponents, insisting Labour had stuck to upbeat arguments.

“I think it does change the nature of political discourse. I think people have got fed up with the yah-boo politics and some of the nasty tactics that have gone on recently.”

Earlier he told the Guardian that May’s general election campaign – in which he and Corbyn were accused of being terrorist sympathisers – was an “exact reflection” of Zac Goldsmith’s Conservative bid to become London mayor, which triggered anger and accusations of dog-whistle politics.

May’s effort was seen as more turbulent given her U-turn over social care plans and the decision to base the entire thrust of the campaign on her character appearing to backfire. Recriminations focused on the party’s manifesto, which caused division at the top of the party.

Holding on to his seat with a big majority, the Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, said. “It looks likely to be a very bad result for Theresa May. She said: ‘It is a fact that if we lose just six seats, we will lose our majority and Jeremy Corbyn will become prime minister.’ We do not yet know the final result, but we intend to hold her to that.”

Fears that the hung parliament projected by the exit poll would delay Brexit negotiations sent the pound plunging in the minutes following its publication. The pound fell as much as 2% to $1.27 – the lowest level in six weeks – but then stabilised while dealers awaited the first actual results.

Jeremy Cook, the chief economist at World First, said that if the exit poll proved to be correct it could drive sterling to $1.24 although not as low as the levels it plunged to following the Brexit vote almost a year ago.

One insider in Labour HQ – known as South Side – said an entire floor had been converted into several war rooms, scattered with whiteboards, television screens and lists of seats. Gathered there were key figures such as Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, and key Corbyn advisers including Seumas Milne, his deputy, Steve Howell, and the author of the manifesto, Andrew Fisher.

Conservative advisers had appeared relatively confident about winning a majority as they headed into the final 24 hours. Privately, they were discussing the potential for a reshuffle of May’s team on Friday, rather than mulling over the possibility of her exiting Downing Street.

May would not be drawn on what scale of majority she would consider a success, but said on Tuesday that she was “feeling good” about the campaign. The senior election team gathered at party headquarters in Matthew Parker Street in Westminster, claiming at first that it was “early days” but later failing to speak out at all.

The prime minister’s election campaign was dominated by visits to Labour-held seats in areas considered to be the party’s heartlands such as the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the north-east.

While David Cameron spent much of the 2015 battle in Liberal Democrat-Tory marginals, May’s tour included the ultra-safe Labour seat of Birmingham Ladywood, launching a battlebus in North Shields and unveiling her manifesto in Halifax, which last turned Conservative in 1983.

Earlier one Labour candidate said colleagues were feeling downbeat, with fears of a 100-plus majority for May, but they later admitted they had been wrong.

The campaign was heavily affected by the two devastating terror attacks in Manchester and London Bridge, which moved security questions up the agenda, with accusations being thrown in all directions.

The Lib Dems acknowledged they had faced a difficult campaign in which an expected fightback failed to come to fruition. The party’s hardline anti-Brexit position had cut through less than was hoped as domestic issues such as the NHS and schooling and the fallout of two terror attacks dominated. However, there were some pleasing gains for the party.

During polling day there were reports of students from Keele University being turned away at polling stations in the ultra-marginal Newcastle-under-Lyme constituency.

The Labour candidate there, Paul Farrelly, who was under pressure after Ukip stepped aside to help the Conservatives defeat him, reacted angrily to reports that hundreds could have been affected by a failure to update the registration data.

“The electoral services department here in Newcastle is a shambles and there is chaos, which is denying people votes on a scale unprecedented in my 30 years fighting and organising elections,” said Farrelly, who is defending a majority of just 650 in a seat where Ukip won more than 7,000 votes in 2015.

Theresa May's leadership in the balance amid Tory election fury

Gamble on early election appears to have backfired, with exit poll prediction of hung parliament seen as ‘catastrophic’ for PM

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor
Friday 9 June 2017 02.33 BST First published on Friday 9 June 2017 01.07 BST

Theresa May’s position as Conservative leader is under pressure after her gamble on an early election appeared to have backfired spectacularly.

Tory MPs were shocked and furious after the party lost much of its 20-point lead in the polls during the course of the campaign.

They pinned the blame not only on the badly received Conservative manifesto, but on the performance of May personally, after she made it a presidential-style contest by putting her “strong and stable” leadership at the centre.

Anger was also directed at May’s close circle of aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who ran a campaign excluding senior cabinet ministers and oversaw the writing of the manifesto.

At her count in Maidenhead, May suggested the Conservatives would try to hang on as a minority government if they won the most seats but any failure to match David Cameron’s 330 seats in 2015 could be fatal for her leadership.

The former chancellor George Osborne, who was sacked by May last year, was one of the first senior party figures to react to the result, saying if the exit poll were correct it would be “catastrophic” for the Tories and the prime minister personally.

He described the Conservative manifesto as “one of the worst manifestos in history” and expressed disappointment that the party was perceived as turning away from metropolitan liberal voters.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers are right, how they would put together the coalition to remain in office,” he said on ITV. “But equally, it’s quite difficult to see how Labour could put together a coalition. It’s on a real knife edge.”

He said there would be a “huge postmortem” about a manifesto drawn up by a very small circle of people in Downing Street and the overall style of the election campaign.

Osborne suggested that Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, would have “a little smile on his face right now” given the boost to his chances of taking over as Tory leader.

Sir Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former director of communications at Downing Street, came to a similar verdict on Sky News.

“If this is true, if this is accurate, in CCHQ there will be deep and lasting shock,” he said. “It was the biggest gamble a politician has taken for a long time and if that exit poll is right, it’s failed.”

On the basis of the first few results, the seats of some Conservative big hitters were under threat, including the home secretary, Amber Rudd, in Hastings and Rye, and Anna Soubry, a prominent pro-EU former minister, in Broxtowe. Jane Ellison, the financial secretary to the Treasury, was the first Tory minister to lose her seat, in Battersea, a strongly remain voting area, while Ben Gummer, the architect of the manifesto, lost in Ipswich.

Labour went on to take back surprise marginals in the south of England, Bedford, Bristol North West and Canterbury, which has been Tory for the last century. Meanwhile, the Conservatives had gained only one seat in England so far, Walsall South, in the Midlands.

In an ominous sign for May, Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, would not guarantee that the prime minister would not have to resign. “It’s very early in the evening and we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

The only pocket of hope for the Conservatives was Scotland, where the wing of the party led by Ruth Davidson ousted Angus Robertson, the SNP Westminster leader, in Moray and took another seat in Angus. Some Tories attributed this to Davidson’s more liberal outlook and cheery demeanour in contrast to May’s social conservatism and a campaign in which she was accused of being a “gloombucket” by the Daily Mail’s sketchwriter.

On Thursday night, senior Conservatives were already discussing potential replacements, with reports that Johnson was tapping up MPs about his prospects. Betting companies immediately began running odds on potential candidates to replace the Conservative leader, with Johnson in the lead, followed by Philip Hammond, May’s chancellor.

The foreign secretary, who was sidelined for much of the Tory campaign until the end, repeatedly dodged questions about whether he would like to lead the party and called on people to “contain themselves” until they had seen the final result. At his victory speech in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, he hinted that the Conservatives had been out of touch, saying they had to “listen to our constituents and listen to their concerns”.

One Conservative MP who held his safe seat said May would be “toast” if she had not managed to at least match Cameron’s result, with the possibility of a new leader installed if they were to attempt to run a minority government.

The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, was sent to Conservative headquarters to calm his party’s nerves, saying on television: “This is a projection, it’s not a result. These exit polls have been wrong in the past.” David Gauke, a loyalist Tory minister, insisted May’s job was not in question. “As things stand at the moment I think she is the right person for the job,” he said.

However, there were very few Tories on the airwaves and silence from party spin doctors as a number of strong holds and a few gains for Labour started coming through.

If May manages to get a majority, her leadership would still be weakened, as the Conservatives had been hoping for a lead in seats of up to 100.

The prime minister toured many Labour-held target constituencies with the aim of winning over the opposition’s pro-Brexit heartlands. But her proposed shake-up of social care, which meant people would have to pay for care in their homes out of the value of their property, went down extremely badly with voters, along with a proposal to abandon the triple lock on pensions and withdraw winter fuel payments from the wealthy.

In the campaign postmortem, Tory MPs will demand to know how a manifesto was published with a raft of unpopular policies and lack of sweeteners to appeal to the electorate.

Above all, the decision to put May front and centre will be challenged, given her wooden media performances and refusal to debate head to head with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Sensing her weakness, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are expected to go after the prime minister hard. A Labour source said: “If this exit poll is correct, Theresa May’s credibility is completely shot. As May said herself, if she lost just six seats in this election she would not be prime minister.”

Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said May “should go, because I think she has manifestly failed”, while deputy leader Tom Watson said May was a “damaged politician whose reputation may never recover”.

Ukip was unhappy with May for a different reason, saying the prime minister had “put Brexit in jeopardy”.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Brexit negotiations are due to start in 11 days. Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor and pro-EU MP, said a hung parliament would be very difficult for the progress of the talks.

“The worst outcome for the United Kingdom would be a weak government and a hung parliament of any party and we just have to see where we get,” he said.

“If we continue with another parliament with a small majority then firstly we will have to have some deeper debates ... particularly on Brexit, and, actually, as we face some appalling difficulties in my opinion, this is a critical stage for us. Politics is changing.”

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